SPOKANE, Wash. - A fungus that can launch a fatal illness has been found for the first time in the soil of Washington.
Officials for Washington State University say the fungus can cause an illness called valley fever. The fungus is normally found in semiarid parts of the Southwest.
Valley fever occurs when the soil-dwelling fungus becomes airborne, releasing spores that get lodged in the lungs of humans and certain animals, especially dogs.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates it kills 160 people a year.
Three unrelated cases were diagnosed in Eastern Washington in 2010-11.
Scientists for Washington State say that soil samples taken recently from the vicinity tested positive for the fungus, proving it can survive here. All three people who got sick in Eastern Washington survived.
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